April 29, 2013

Conducting Business Using Google Hangouts

[Post, Podcast, Video] Google hangouts have been an invaluable resource for my business. I typically use them to provide client consultations, mentoring, workshops, and virtual meetings.

As a solopreneur, I gauge my efforts not only by the return on investment (ROI) but also by the return on time (ROT). This means that productivity planning is a big part of how I manage the administration and operational aspects of Rachael Alford Consulting Services .

Recently, I hosted a Google hangout on-air (Hangout about Hangouts; see below) with +Anetra Henry Hunting of the Hunting Group (http://www.anetrahenryhunting.com). I shared tips and techniques for providing  agenda and SWOT analysis templates using the productivity application +Symphonical integrated with the +Hangout Lower Third. Anetra Henry Hunting discussed suggested best practices and techniques for conducting on-air hangouts.

Even though the instructional on-air hangout was 1 hour and 15 minutes, I did not delve into setting up Symphonical templates for business consultations. I continued the conversation in the second episode of Solutions for Success with Rachael.

In the podcast, Virtual Business Consulting Using Google Hangouts,  I discuss how using Google Hangouts to conduct virtual business consultations are beneficial for both the potential client and the consultant. I also discuss how using Symphonical during virtual business consultations boosts consultant productivity as well as increases sales. LISTEN NOW

You will need to queue the following walls before you watch this video:

Demo Wall: Hangout Agenda
Demo Wall: SWOT Analysis
Hangout about Hangouts with Rachael Alford & Anetra Henry Hunting

Additional resources for preparing to host and marketing a hangout on air can be found in segment 4.

April 26, 2013

QR codes on Pineapples?

QR on a Pineapple
QR code on a Pineapple?
Recently, I was discussing the relevancy and application of QR codes with a community of entrepreneurs and small business owners. The response was almost always the same: The idea of a QR code is fantastic but the application of QR codes usually falls flat. (Read those discussions here, here, and here).

So, last week when my husband came home from the grocery store with a pineapple, I noted that it had a big tag with a QR code prominently displayed.  As a consumer, I find the use of extra materials to be a waste of natural resources. But as a business owner and solutions strategist, I think the intention is spot on but the delivery falls flat- BIG TIME.

Why this QR code fails:

Adding increased packaging to products does not add value for the consumer. Adding the label increases the overall cost of the pineapple for the customer because those packaging dollars have to come from somewhere. Best placed QR codes do not add to the cost of marketing. 

The label  has a call to action (scan the code) to get recipes, etc. Wouldn't it be smarter to invest in an SEO specialist to ensure that when someone searches for pineapple recipes, they find this company at the top of the list?

Moreover, it didn’t work! I tried scanning this QR code on multiple devices, using different scanning programs over a period of several days. It was just a dead code.

If the QR code had worked properly, do you think this is a good application?

April 24, 2013

Interview with Sai Prasad from iDating Assistant

Work at Home Wednesday

Name: Sai Prasad   Company: iDating Assistant

Please tell us about your business:   I am Sai Prasad, Founder of iDating Assistant – the innovative new online dating resource for time-strapped professionals. At iDating Assistant, our mantra is simple: We Work. You Date.

Today’s successful professionals are often unlucky in love simply because they lack the time it takes to navigate the online dating scene. From finding the right site, creating a compelling profile, pouring over thousands of prospects and then relentlessly trying to interest one in a date – it’s no wonder that so many hard-working professionals leave their love lives unattended.

That’s exactly why we’ve created iDating Assistant – the new outsourcing service in online dating. We make dating fun, exciting and simple for busy professionals.
iDating Assistant isn’t a dating service. 

What we do is let overworked young professionals delegate the minutiae of the online dating process to their very own online date manager, who provides one-on-one personalized service throughout the entire dating cycle.

With the help of an iDating Assistant, clients no longer have to endure so many of the inherent stresses and time-wasters associated with internet dating. We pre-screen candidates to make sure only the best prospects make it onto the radar. We help to craft compelling profiles and offer photo retouching services to help attract only the most promising new dates. 

We write and send customized emails and even text messages to keep the communication flowing. We even help to plan dates and offer date follow-up and coaching. All that’s left for iDating Assistant clients is the joy and excitement of the dates themselves.

How long have you been working from home?   I have been working from home for the last two years.

Do you work from home full time or part time?  Full time
How do you stay connected with colleagues in your field?   I always make it a priority to schedule at least one lunch with either a past colleague or a new acquaintance.

Meeting up for coffee is another great opportunity to touch base with old friends or meet new business contacts. The casual nature is also well suited to further understand the needs of potential customers.

Meet up is another venue that I see has great potential to get a pulse of on ground information on what is really happening in your industry.

In addition to this, there are the usual suspects that I take advantage of: Phone, Email, Video chatting via Skype & Social media tools.

How do you deal with the isolating nature of working from home? As a professional, notwithstanding the fact that you are working from home or a corporate office, you are always under constant pressure and stress to deliver. As a work from home professional you have isolation on top of it.

The first step is acknowledging that isolation is the nature of beast when you have chosen this path and it is here to stay. The good news is, one of the luxury afforded is, you are in total control of your work schedule. 

I spice up my routine by switching my schedule as well doing things in between just for the fun. Say, I go for a walk out of the blue when confronted with a complex problem and I am in need of motivation for out of the box thinking. There were even times that I worked from a coffee shop, chatting in between with total strangers.

How do you stay motivated without the accountability of a "time clock"?   I made it a priority to separate my work space from home, this provides me a semi-quasi notion of working from a corporate office and helps me put in a “Work-Zone” mode. If there are instances where I am stuck with a particular issue, I take my mind off by thinking about side projects.

I also use a “carrot and stick policy” on myself. I am a sucker for movies, I hold off watching it till I at least make reasonable progress with my work for the day. 

Coming to the stick, “FEAR” is a such a powerful motivator, first off I remember the reasons why I wanted to work from home and ask  myself, “So, let’s see, whom should I blame if things don’t work around”. The answer prods me to stick to a “time schedule” or work twice hard if I slack off.

Finally, I maintain a support group of friends & peers, they may not understand my exact challenges, but it is a great relief to have someone to talk to.

What are the biggest challenges you face when working from home?  The biggest challenge for me is the volume of work. Without the luxury of a corporate structure in place, as a business owner considerable amount of time is spent in administrative tasks. This takes time from my core areas that are revenue generating and which need constant attention.

The second one would be "instant networking", as a work from home professional you have to be proactive and go the extra mile to network as compared to the opportunities that are presented in a corporate office.

Do you work in your underwear?   No

What is the best part about working from home?   The most key benefit working from home provides me the prerogative to choose projects that I know I am passionate about and that I know can positively impact people’s life’s. There is also the luxury to work at my convenience and pace. It is always a plus that there isn’t a boss breathing down your neck about a deadline.

What is the one item that you find vital to have in your home office?  My Smart Phone. By consolidating all my email accounts & all the apps, it is a single point of information for my quick reference that saves me valuable time.

What is the one piece of advice that you can give to those just starting out working from home?  Focus on your core and revenue generating areas. Get help or outsource your administrative tasks, don’t fall into the notion that you have to do everything all by yourself.

You wouldn’t believe that a simple task like maintaining an expense report will take up some much of your valuable time that could have otherwise been spent on mission critical tasks.

Continue the conversation... 
Facebook  Sai Prasad Facebook iDating Assistant Google Plus +Sai Prasad Twitter @iDatingAsst                                        

If you are an entrepreneur that works from home and would like to be highlighted in an interview.  please submit your information here.

April 22, 2013

Laying the Foundation [Post and Podcast]

I just finished the first podcast, Laying the Foundation on my Blog Talk Radio show Solutions for Success with Rachael, and most certainly; everything that could go wrong- did! Due to technical difficulties, it started late (although it begins for the listener at 00:22) and because I only scheduled it for 15 minutes- I ran out of time to share everything that I wanted to say.

In this inaugural episode, I decided cull questions from conversations that I have had with aspiring entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs and small business owners with the hopes that my listeners can glean some insights on how to enhance their success efforts.


Question 1: Between my full time job and my kids, I have no time to dedicate to opening my own business. Help!

Tick, Tick, Tick...
As I shared on-air, every entrepreneur has to come to terms with time management. If you are having a hard time navigating the waters of a work/home balance- join the club! This is not my attempt at commiseration but rather, stated to comfort you as you are not alone in this struggle.

In the coming weeks, I will be pod casting about specific time management tips as they relate to productivity planning.


Weigh the Risk
Question 2: I have a great idea and need money in order to make my dream a reality. The problem is that I am afraid that someone will steal my idea before I get the chance to develop the product. What should I do?

If you are concerned about publicly sharing proprietary ideas; it is a risk and a valid concern. But it's up to you to weigh that risk.  Do you need a cash infusion? With that cash infusion, can your product/idea come into fruition? If no, then I would not go with a public crowdfunding campaign or I would chose to phase fund to minimize the risk.


Question 3:  I am an aspiring entrepreneur. I have what it takes to be an entrepreneur but I need money first! It seems like a never ending circle. Where can I turn for start-up capital?

Drip, Drip, Drip...
Absolutely! How can a business emerge without money? But you also need to have the passion (drive), plans (business, financial, marketing, feasibility, exit, etc.,) and action.  Inaction due to limited or no funds is inexcusable in this day and age.

I suggest joining an amazingly supportive community with 15,500+ members that I co-moderate: Entrepreneurs, Self Employed and Small Business

OK but, Where to find funds?

If you are located in the US, you can apply for small business and start-up loans via the Small Business Administration. You can also search for grants, sponsorships and competitions. If you are here, you have probably already tried those options and are seeking more. Try this:
In upcoming pod casts, we will really dig deeper into funding possibilities.  Be sure to follow the show so you don't miss out.

Listen to the show and continue  the conversation by using the hash tag #RachaelChats (across platforms) or by commenting below. 

April 17, 2013

Interview with Danny Upton from NUGFX

Today, we are kicking off a new blog series, Work at Home Wednesday that will highlight entrepreneurs that work from home. In this inaugural post, Danny Upton from +NUGFX has graciously agreed to be interviewed.

Name: Danny Upton Company: NUGFX
Website: http://www.nugfx.com    Blog:  http://www.nugfx.com/blog/

Please tell us about your business:   NUGFX is a Creative Website and Graphic Design company based in Liverpool, UK. We offer clients with a professional and friendly website and graphic design service at the best affordable price. We provide clients with; Graphic Design, Logo Design, Responsive Website Design, Business Cards, Menu Design, Poster Design, Leaflets, Flyers and Compliment Slips. NUGFX has been trading since 2011.

How long have you been working from home?   2 years

Do you work from home full time or part time?   Part time

How do you stay connected with colleagues in your field?   I stay in touch with creative minds by Facebook and Twitter and more recently G+. There is also a creative community in Liverpool called Kin2Kin were creative companies/individuals go to a monthly network meeting and catch up.

How do you deal with the isolating nature of working from home? I don't find it isolated at all, I really enjoy working from home, the one thing I can say I do badly is I cannot break home life from work life as I seem to work almost 16 hours.

But sometimes when I do feel a bit lonely I just take my tablet with me to the cafe/bistro and have a relaxing time working and every now and then have the social chat with people in the cafe/bistro.  

How do you stay motivated without the accountability of a "time clock"?   When I lose some motivation I usually watch a film, go for a run to clear my mind, cook dinner as I find cooking really relaxing.

When I mean cooking I don't mean sticking a microwave meal in the oven, I do it from scratch as since a very young age I have HAD to learn how to cook as my family is Italian.  Or I will have a quick nap.

What are the biggest challenges you face when working from home?  Trying to come across as a "real" business as most of the businesses in my field have an office/studio, I do have a virtual office I have just acquired but at the beginning I found that to be my major stumbling block.

Do you work in your underwear?   Sometimes

What is the best part about working from home?   The kitchen is about 3 foot away from me as I'm always hungry :) And when its nighttime I can get a lot of work done from the silence.

What is the one item that you find vital to have in your home office?   I have a few items i would say are vital,my laptop, tablet, PC, printer. But without the internet I couldn't be a business so I would say the internet is my most vital tool!

What is the one piece of advice that you can give to those just starting out working from home?  The one piece of advice I would give is when you are low in motivation TAKE A BREAK! It can make you ill constantly worrying.

Continue the conversation...
Google Plus +NUGFX Twitter     Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Nugfx 

If you are an entrepreneur that works form home and would like to be highlighted in an interview, please submit your information here.

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